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The BIG reason Rasmus Højlund’s debut Man United season gives fans a reason to believe



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Signed last summer from Atalanta in a deal potentially rising to £72m, Rasmus Højlund’s first season at Manchester United was not perfect, but overall, a very strong start.

The Danish forward, who only turned 21 a few months ago, finished the season as United‘s top goalscorer in all competitions and showed a lot of promise despite his inconsistencies.

Rasmus Højlund‘s 16 goals for United were well-diversified, showcasing his elite goalscoring potential. There were the classic ‘striker’s goals’, where he had to battle with his defender for the ball and wanted it more. Some of them he created the yard to shoot himself, thundering strikes on his stronger left against Spurs and weaker right against West Ham being good examples of this.

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His first Premier League goal, a volley against Aston Villa, and chested goal against Luton Town showed his ability to react at speed in the box and improvise, and both of his goals against Galatasaray at Old Trafford showed his ability to eat up ground and leave defenders for dust in a footrace, with and without the ball at his feet.

His celebrations when scoring and reactions when missing tell us in no uncertain terms that this is a player who relishes scoring goals like absolutely nothing else. An innate desire that belongs to the game’s elite strikers. As Højlund develops – swings in confidence still affect him as a young and relatively inexperienced striker – and United improve as a team, his numbers will only go up.

The debate becomes more complex when it comes to Højlund’s all-around game. His physical and technical base is excellent, and when running at and beyond defenders, he carries the ball well and shifts excellently for his size. He has a solid passing range and can retain the ball in tight spaces—all very valuable qualities.

However, some improvements need to be made when it comes to contact situations with defenders. Højlund is a physically powerful player, and this can cause defenders a lot of problems, but he has some minor technical flaws in these situations that need ironing out.

United’s number 11 sometimes finds himself too eager to wrestle with defenders, letting the ball bounce too much and giving them more time to sneak in and steal it. He also has some improvements to make in how he uses his body, sometimes not leveraging his length as well as he could and also mistiming when he tries to move away from defenders with the ball.

These are not major deficiencies, and he can quite easily be coached out of his game and improved with some individual training over the summer. I would also argue that it was impacted by fatigue, as his holdup and contact play looked much better when coming off the bench and more rested in the final three games of the season. There is work to be done, but some of the criticism has been overboard.

Another area for improvement is adjusting his runs to his teammates. Højlund has very good penalty box instincts and is a huge threat off the shoulder, but was in a different setup at Atalanta compared to the one at Old Trafford. At times, it has felt like he is on a slightly different wavelength from his teammates. The constant personnel changes have only added to this issue, but it is something that should naturally improve as he plays with his teammates more, developing empathy with them.

One thing that makes me feel especially confident that Højlund will smooth out the issues in his game is mentality.

The raw qualities are there. But what stands out about Højlund, and what needs to be shared in any new signings United make in the future, is his raging desire to be the best version of himself that he can be. As a boyhood United fan, too, it means that little bit more to him, and he makes that very clear, wearing his heart on his sleeve.

All in all, it was not a perfect start for Rasmus Højlund. But for a 21-year-old in just his second season in one of Europe’s top leagues, it was overwhelmingly positive, and we’ve seen more than enough to conclude that this is just the beginning for him in United Red.